Health is defined by the World Health Organization as a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing. It is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Factors that affect health can be divided into many categories. The current paper explores these elements using a case study of diabetes. The analysis is provided in the context of health belief model as the preferred approach to behavioral change.
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Diabetes: A Brief Outline
The term “diabetes” is used to describe a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high levels of sugar in the blood. The condition is mainly brought about by low or inadequate production of insulin in the body. It can also be caused by the failure of body cells to respond properly to insulin (Brown, Dougherty, Garcia, Kouzekanani & Hanis, 2002). There are two major types of diabetes. They include diabetes mellitus type 1 and diabetes mellitus type 2.
The latter is also known as the “disease of affluent”. It is characterized by chronic and non-communicable diseases. Personal lifestyles and societal conditions associated with economic development are believed to be important risk factors associated with this condition. Obesity is a growing health concern in the world, especially due to its high prevalence rates among the youth. For example, between 2001 and 2009, cases of this condition among individuals aged below 20 years rose by 23% in the USA alone (Cash, 2014).
Behavioral Change Programs Used in Overcoming Obesity
The health belief model was selected for the purposes of this study to deal with diabetes. It is a psychological framework used to identify, predict, and explain behavioral patterns related to health (Carpenter, 2010). It has 4 major constructs highlighting the perceived threat and the associated benefits. They include the following:
- Perceived vulnerability.
- Apparent severity.
- Perceived benefits.
- Perceived hurdles.
The framework above was selected for a number of reasons. For example, it helps the target population to acknowledge the negative impacts of a given health condition (Marks, 2003). Behavioral change projects in relation to diabetes have progressed over the years. Today, they include a wide range of activities and approaches. Most of these interventions focus on the individual as the locus of change (Glanz, Rimer & Viswanath, 2008).
Behaviors Contributing to the Diabetes Problem
There are various individual behavioral elements that increase the risk of becoming diabetic or succumbing to the condition. They include, among others, unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, failure to take medication, and lack of problem solving skills (Cash, 2014). Other risk factors include lack of awareness and ignorance among the target population. It is important to address these issues to help deal with the health problem.
Using Health Belief Model to Deal with Diabetes
The model is made up of four interdependent elements as described below:
When using this model, individuals are made to realize that they can contract a given health condition if they fail to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The practitioner starts by first gauging the beliefs of the target population with regards to the link between risky lifestyle and diabetes. They are taught how poor feeding habits, lack of physical exercise, and such other issues may predispose them to diabetes (Carpenter, 2010). As such, they are encouraged to go for screening (Brown et al., 2002).
Diabetes leads to a number of health complications. The aim here is to deal with the community’s belief systems in relation to perceived severity of diabetes. Members of the public will be made to acknowledge the consequences of contracting diabetes. As a result, they will realize that it is important to go for screening (Carpenter, 2010).
The aim is to help those at risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes to significantly reduce the chances of contracting it. In addition, the approach can be used to help those with diabetes to regulate their glycerin levels (Glanz et al., 2008).
The objective is to analyze the perceptions of the community members in relation to the avoidance of the risk factors (Marks, 2003). The benefits of adhering to the instructions provided will be made apparent.
Adhering to the instructions provided to help avoid or mitigate effects of diabetes has its consequences. One of them includes disruption of lifestyles (Kapyla, 1996). The beliefs of the target population in relation to this element will be gauged. Their fears will be dealt with accordingly.
Legislation as an Ecological Framework
The Ecological Determinants of Diabetes
Individual behavior is influenced to a large extent by their environment. The proposed ecological framework can be used to deal with factors beyond the control of the person at three levels.
It contains structures that the individual has direct contact with (Kapyla 1996). They include the family, the school, and neighborhood. Diabetes can easily arise at this level because lifestyle is largely determined by significant others around the individual.
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Legislations can be put in place to ensure that parents become good role models. In addition, access to unhealthy foods among children, such as sweetened drinks, should be regulated. Policies can also be formulated to ensure that schools organize walks and other forms of physical exercises for their learners (Cash, 2014).
The level connects two or more systems in which an individual lives. An example is the link between teachers and parents in relation to children with diabetes. Governments can formulate policies to rally people around activities related to prevention of diabetes in municipalities, districts, and healthcare. Persons living with diabetes should be accommodated at this level (Marks, 2003).
It is made up of cultural values, customs, and laws (Kapyla 1996). Companies dealing with the manufacture of unhealthy foods should be banned from promoting their products near schools. In addition, government can set aside funds to support such projects as riding bicycle to school or work.
Factors Targeted by the Ecological Model to Alleviate the Problem of Diabetes
The condition can be controlled through physical exercise (Brown et al., 2002). To this end, one factor to be addressed entails the design of public structures. In such cases, people are likely to use the stairs instead of lifts. Another factor involves public transport. Sidewalks and bicycle lanes should also be properly maintained.
They should be regarded to be as important as highways (Kapyla 1996). The third element involves participation. Community leaders should ensure that food outlets within their jurisdictions adhere to set health standards. They should regulate the number of fast food joints to promote good eating habits. The last factor has to do with resources. Funds should be made available for projects aimed at reducing diabetes.
Behavior change is an effective way of controlling most health conditions, such as diabetes. The health belief model can be used to help change the perceptions of the target population in relation to diabetes.
However, the individual has no control over a number of elements relating to the environment around them. As such, there is a need to come up with an ecological model to complement the selected behavioral framework. In conclusion, it is clear that many diseases like diabetes can be prevented through the adoption of the appropriate interventions.
Brown, S., Dougherty, J., Garcia, A., Kouzekanani, K., & Hanis, C. (2002). Culturally competent diabetes self-management education for Mexican Americans: The Starr County border health initiative. Diabetes Care, 25(2), 259-268.
Carpenter, C. (2010). A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of health belief model variables in predicting behavior. Health Communication, 25(8), 661-669.
Cash, J. (2014). Family practice guidelines (3rd ed.). New York: Springer.
Glanz, K., Rimer, B., & Viswanath, K. (2008). Health behavior and health education: Theory, research, and practice (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kapyla, M. (1996). Cultural-Ecological frame of reference as organizer of contents in environmental education. European Education, 28(3), 82-94.
Marks, J. (2003). Perioperative management of diabetes. American Family Physician, 67(1), 93-100.